No matter how much you analyze the Ohio Bobcats, it always seems to get back to senior quarterback Nathan Rourke.
“This young man is impressive,” UL coach Billy Napier said of Ohio’s all-time leading passer. “He’s smart, he runs his system well, he’s very accurate, very efficient and also can run.”
Rourke, who has thrown for 580 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and is the team's leading rusher with 150 yards, also caught the attention of UL senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner on film.
UL senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner has had so many conflicting thoughts running through his mind this past offseason, it’s a wonder his head …
“He is a really good player,” Gardner said. “He knows how to escape the pocket and transition really well and avoid pressure. So we’ve got to get in his head early and take it from there.
“He doesn’t really make any bad decisions. He know when the leave the pocket and not take a sack. A lot of quarterbacks, they don’t really feel that pressure and they just fold when the pressure comes. He’s able to avoid the pressure and get out and try to make a play for his team.”
Napier is encouraged by his defense’s improvement this season in containing mobile quarterbacks.
“I think it’s an area on our team where we’ve made improvement,” Napier said. “We’re much better in terms of our integrity in our rush lanes and all those type of things. We’re keeping the guy in the pocket. That’s another way you can affect the quarterback — push the pocket, tip the balls, hit the guy, sack the guy. Certainly takeaways, in my opinion, are about affecting the quarterback.”
Of course, Gardner reminds the best way to contain Rourke is to stop the run.
“First things first, we need to stop the run and make them one-dimensional, and just go ahead and take part of their game away,” he said. “Once we do that, they’ll be one-dimensional and we’ll just focus in on him at that point. “
Vallot, Hudson still competing
UL’s Week 4 depth chart had a few changes to it.
Seeing the two names listed as the first and second-string center for the Cajuns this week had to bring back some memories for those two families.
It wasn’t the first time they were listed near each other.
The two names are: starter Shane Vallot of Comeaux High and reserve David Hudson of Lafayette High.
The two had a heated, but quite respectful and friendly, rivalry on the mat during their successful high school wrestling careers, trading wins in a see-saw battle throughout their senior season.
Asked after his senior year what his favorite win was, Hudson said it was beating Vallot in the Ken Cole finals.
Both said their toughest opponent was each other.
“Spencer Gardner had an insignificant hand injury at one point, where we had to work other people,” Napier said about Hudson's emergence on the depth chart. “Spencer plays center as well. But there have been scenarios certainly in practice this week where David has been taking some reps with the twos. We work a number of players when it comes to contingency plans and certainly you can see that one of our contingency plans is playing David at center.”
Napier is addressing some personnel issues this week, but not all of them.
Doing a little housekeeping, he confirmed senior center Cole Prudhomme will not return this season.
“Cole is going to redshirt and he’ll be back next year,” Napier said. “Certainly, we feel confident about his getting his sixth year of eligibility. I know he’s committed to that and excited about that.”
Also, junior transfer defensive tackle Tayland Humphrey still hasn’t received news from the NCAA on his immediate eligibility appeal.
“No, still waiting on that ruling,” Napier said. “We thought it would be sooner, but we still haven’t gotten that back yet.”
There’s a lot of history to overcome.
Napier said if Humphrey is ruled eligible, the staff could play the 6-5, 350-pound in every game remaining or choose to just play him in four games to preserve a year of eligibility. Either way, the delay is part of the process.
“The process is pretty specific in terms of initial denial and appeal,” he said. “All the people involved have a certain amount of time to present information. So they’re spot on. It’s just been a very difficult decision. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Then there’s redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, who played but did not record any statistics in Saturday’s win over Texas Southern.
McCaskill was not listed as a backup linebacker as he normally is on the depth chart released Wednesday.
Ready for road noise
With Saturday's trip to Athens, Ohio, the Cajuns' first road game, Napier’s coaching staff did the customary gesture of piping in extra noise in Thursday’s practice.
But that wasn’t the first time that’s happened this season.
It’s not that he’s shying away from the burden that was placed on his shoulders last season, but UL senior defensive end Bennie Higgins unleas…
“Every Thursday we practice with a pretty significant volume,” Napier explained. “It really tests your communication, which is what’s important. You don’t need to just do it on road games. You need to do it every week. Sometimes it uncovers some communication issues you have. You use hand signals. Certainly it challenges the quarterback. All forms of communication — verbal and non-verbal — we do that every Thursday.”
Otherwise, Napier isn’t overly concerned about playing on the road.
“The field will be the same size,” he said. “We’ll be wearing white jerseys instead of red. That’ll be about the only difference.”